The Best Toddler Gifts That Develop Creativity and Imagination
I can’t believe it’s here. It’s the month my son turns 2 years old! So I’ve searched Amazon, Instagram, and my mommy groups for the best toddler gifts that develop creativity and imagination!
While I love a good educational toy or game, it’s creativity and imagination that needs to be developed at this age. The ABCs and 123s will come later, but building a foundation of problem-solving, fine motor skills, and social skills will be useful for life. So I’ve compiled a list of over 10 types of gifts in 4 categories that are not only super popular right now, but will give your child years of enjoyment all based on developing creativity.
For a list of over 30 books celebrating birthdays, check out this post!
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The Must-Have Toddler Gifts for Building
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Building blocks are amazing and so versatile, but can fall easily and can be difficult to create objects besides buildings. Legos are perfect for exercising the imagination and all the child to build literally anything they can dream up. But they are often too small for a toddler’s hands… and sometimes mouths… So Lego came up with a great first Lego set, Duplo blocks! They’re larger for little hands to grasp and are a bit easier to stack together. It’s still to be determined if they’re easier to maneuver around to avoid the dreaded foot pain that comes from stepping on them though! They also come with themed sets, people, and vehicles just like the older kid version! The starter set includes building cards, propellors, and blocks with eyes to help jump-start their creativity. While it says it’s for kids 1.5-3, I know for fact kids as old as 6 are still enjoying them!
This mini workbench is perfect for inspiring children to work with their hands and learning to use tools. It looks just like one you or I would use! If you have a toddler that loves to be out in the shop with you and is always wanting to use your tools, then this set would be perfect to put alongside yours! As you hammer some nails into wood, your toddler could practice doing the same, but safely! This workbench comes with 5 tools and 55 little wooden pieces, plus the storage and organization shelves for it all! They also don’t leave you hanging for ideas because it comes with a booklet of 5 ideas for vehicles and robots to get the creative juices flowing! Just be aware that this set isn’t always compatible with the other tool sets. It seems to be the biggest source of lower ratings and reviews
These sets are super popular right now, and for good reason. They’re easy to store and easy to use and can build almost anything with them! I subbed in a kindergarten room a few months ago and the kids were still obsessed with these little magnetic tiles. They were building everything from secret tunnels to fire trucks and train tracks. The imaginations were going wild! There were some news stories a while back about a child eating the magnets, but with most of the well-known brands this isn’t likely, but do make sure you’re supervising your child, especially if they still like to put things in their mouths. The set I’m showing to the right is the Playmags 150 set because it seems to give you the perfect amount of tiles and accessories to create whatever your child can dream up, including cars and words. Playmags is also compatible with the other 2 popular brands, Magna Tiles, and Picasso, so you can mix and match sets to create just what you want.
Toddler Gifts for Pretend Play
If your kid hasn’t tried grabbing your brooms, mops, and dustpans yet, then I’m shocked lol. Kids, especially toddlers, love to copy whatever you do, help out, and play with sticks. So what better gift than their own cleaning toy set! This particular one is made by the well-loved Melissa & Doug brand. As with most of their products, it’s made with durability and small children in mind. I also love how gender-neutral it is. It is made out of wood, which is great for the durability, but be aware it does yield a bigger knock to the head when Jr realizes he can reach far away objects with the broom but can’t quite hold it steady… Not speaking from experience or anything lol.
At this age, our children are becoming increasingly imaginative, and if like my son, dramatic. He loves to pretend to be cars, animals, and just plain silly! If you look in every preschool room, one thing you’ll find is an area for dress-up! It’s not just for girls either! Having costumes, or items that can be reimagined for a costume (like a blanket into a cape), allow children to explore their imagination as well as learn what it’s like to be that person or animal through play. It’s also a perfect addition to any homeschooling unit on people in your community! Despite our small spaces, we will add to our dress-up nook any chance we get. And an added benefit is we have plenty of options for Halloween!
This cute little table set is perfect for introducing the concept of gardening to your child. It comes with fake soil discs, flowers, pots, a watering can, and even a rake, shovel, and sifter tray. The basin has a plug so you can fill it with water to make it a water table and then empty it easily later. If you’re looking for an inexpensive all-purpose sensory table then this could be the perfect fit for your family. Many people recommend it as not only a gardening table, but water, sand, and sensory table too! Of course, it can also be used to teach your child about growing plants and has a little work surface to do just that. It is a little on the shorter side, so probably good for sitting, or you can raise it up on some cinderblocks or set it on a small table so it can grow with your child.
Your toddler has been playing with your pots and pans for ages probably, so why not give them their own set?! Just like the pretend cleaning set, the kitchen set allows children to develop social and imaginative skills. The best part is there is one to fit every budget and style. There is even a food truck option if you want to encourage that entrepreneurial spirit! The one I have pictured to the right is one of the more ‘deluxe’ options, but I love it because it really is reminiscent of a real kitchen, it’s gender-neutral, and it’s interactive! I don’t know about your toddler, but mine loves buttons and sounds and this one has lights and sounds! It even has a play ice maker! So when your child wants the real thing, this is a great alternative.
The Best Toddler Gifts for Budding Artists
I know, I know. Painting is MESSY with toddlers… Truth is it’s always messy lol. Painting, as well as printmaking, are so very important to a child’s development though. The ability to explore mark making and how if they move their hand this way it creates this kind of mark and if they stab it creates a different kind of mark or if they use their hands or a stick… All of these explorations are a part of experimentation and fine motor-skill development and are essential at this age (and really any age). If you want to start easy, as in easy to clean, then get watercolor pallets or even liquids. They’re easily washed away from most surfaces.
The EVNEED sponge kit I’m showing to the right is a perfect gift to get your child started. All you’d need to do is add some paint! It comes with 29 different applicators for lots of different designs and textures, different brushes for traditional painting, and even a full cover smock to keep the paint off clothes. Kids especially love those textured sponge rollers. They get so excited to see the design repeat as they roll it around. Even my 6th graders still enjoy using these types of tools.
These are super popular right now. The large size with the ability to fold into a small package mixed with a stain-free experience are both big benefits for parents. For kids, it’s a magical experience to see their drawings come to life and then disappear again. While it’s not a substitution for painting and drawing activities, it is a great addition for drawing on the go, with friends, and for learning. When you are ready to practice your letters and numbers this can act as a fun alternative to a whiteboard. And even if the novelty of the mat itself wears off, the tools are even useful with traditional paint materials! I don’t have a specific one that seems to be better than any other, so look at the different options for design, stencils, and applicators and make your decision based on what your needs are.
What art studio would be complete without clay?! Of course, playdoh isn’t real clay, but for toddlers, it’s the perfect material to begin their sculpting careers! It’s reusable, non-staining, and soft enough for small hands. It also grows with your child and it never loses its fun factor. Even adults love playing with Playdoh! Now it’s not perfect, it will dry out if left out and it isn’t fun to get it out of couches and carpets, but no sculpting material is perfect! I guarantee your toddler will love playing with Playdoh though! And for a different sensory experience, you could also try Playfoam!
Must-have Musical Toddler Gifts
While your toddler probably doesn’t have the fine motor skills to play the piano yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t give them another way to make their own music as well as learn how to play songs! With the floor piano mat, they use their bodies to press the keys instead of their fingers. Remember with play-based learning kids learn things so much faster than just through normal repetition and by moving their bodies they’re activating even more of their brains… as well as getting the wiggles out. Of course, your toddler isn’t the only one that can enjoy this jumbo piano, it’s fun for all ages! I chose this particular mat because it’s color-coded and comes with color-coded cards to learn to play new songs! So they’re learning music and color matching. Of course, there are options for everyone, choose the one that makes the most sense for your family.
I know, I know, yet another gift idea to give parents a headache… and in this case, literally. But music is again vital for their development and brings them so much joy. While listening to music is great, being able to make their own is even better. And with this set, they get 15 different types of instruments to explore. Being able to experiment with the way each makes a different sound and has a different tone is how you develop the ability to hear and play music, as well as gives them the foundation to hear the different tones in people’s voices and in different languages.
Of course, there are more ways to build creativity that doesn’t require buying anything, so don’t feel you have to buy your child things in order to give them that jump start in life. You could use your own imagination and already existing resources to recreate many of these types of gifts. Sand or mud for Playdoh. Food coloring and water for watercolor paint. Leftover pieces of wood for building blocks (though you do have watch for splinters with this option!). And you could even make your own musical instruments with sticks, plastic bottles, coins, and more!
Don’t forget to check out this post on our fun Jello sensory experience
What gifts have you given your toddler that has helped develop their creativity and imagination? Let me know in the comments below!